Chennai: Tamil Nadu prohibition and excise minister P. Thangamani on Friday said the government would "implement in letter and spirit" the Supreme Court order and close all the Tasmac shops within 500 metres of the national and state highways. The SC ban would apply to shops within 220 metres in places with population of less than 20,000. "We must obey the Supreme Court order. We will take appropriate decisions, which would also ensure redeployment of staff working in the affected shops so that they do not lose their jobs", the minister told DC amid his hectic electioneering in RK Nagar constituency.
The Tasmac administration burnt midnight oil in hammering out the logistics of implementing the SC order, with managing director Kirlosh Kumar engaged in hectic discussions with his senior officials on identifying alternative sites for relocating the 'highway shops'. The task is humongous considering that the court ban would uproot 3,321 tasmac shops out of the total 5,672 functioning across the state.
"Sale of liquor gets the government Rs 26,000 crores annually and it is important that the Tasmac takes quick action to identify new places to reopen these shops knocked down by the SC order. We were hoping that the court will give us some time to make alternative arrangements. This order to close down highway shops, including those close to the state highways, has come as a big jolt to us", said a Tasmac official requesting anonymity.
Accoring to Tasmac employees' union (AITUC) general secretary D. Dhanasekaran, the SC order could throw about 15,000 workers (in highway shops) out of their jobs. "We want the government to ensure that they are provided with alternative jobs in accordance to their education. The government should give them wages until they are given other jobs", he told DC.
PMK founder Dr S. Ramadoss said the SC order "is the first victory in our fight against liquor from the time we started our party (1989)". Stressing that 3,321 'highway shops' should be closed down "this midnight itself", he said the PMK would launch an agitation to lock up such shops if the government fails to carry out the court diktat.